All posts by Paul Tchir

1930 Olympic Missing Links, Part 2

Today Oldest Olympians is continuing its inquiry into the subject of missing links from the year 1930, which looks at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. This month’s series examines those who were born in 1930 and who would otherwise be the newest possibilities for our list of oldest living Olympians.

Louis Desmet – Member of the Belgian track and field delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Louis Desmet, born January 5, 1930, competed in the 800 metres event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, but was eliminated in the round one heats. His international career seems to be fairly limited, making it difficult to find more information on him, but an anonymous user on the Dutch Wikipedia added a date of death of June 6, 2001 and a place of death of Anderlecht to his article. Unfortunately, they did not provide any sources and thus we are unable to confirm whether or not this information is accurate.

(Muroya pictured at the website of the Hakui High School Alumni Association)

Yoshitaka Muroya – Member of the Japanese track and field delegation to the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics

Yoshitaka Muroya, born April 6, 1930, competed in the same event as Desmet and experienced a similar result. Muroya, however, was much more prolific and also took part in the 4×400 metres relay in Helsinki, although he was eliminated in the opening round. He returned to the Games in 1956 in Melbourne, with the same result in the relay, but made it to the semifinals of the 800 metres. He was far more successful at the Asian Games: in 1954 he took gold in both events, as well as silver in the 1500 metres, an event in which he had been entered in Helsinki, but did not start. In 1958, he defended his titles in both events and later became a successful senior-level golfer. Japanese Wikipedia has a date of death for him of March 23, 2019, and even provides a link, but we were unable to verify the information on that website (or any other), and thus we cannot list him conclusively as having died on that date.

(The 1948 Chinese Olympic basketball team pictured in a BBC article)

Kya Iskyun – Member of the Chinese basketball team at the 1948 London Olympics

We do not know the exact date, or even year, of birth for Kya Iskyun, who represented China in the basketball tournament at the 1948 London Games, but he would be well within the range of being born c. 1930 given the date of the competition. Regardless, we know very little about him outside of his participation in the Games, where China finished 18th overall after winning three and losing two of its matches in its round-robin pool. The only information we do have comes from the Chinese Wikipedia, which claims that he died in 1989. Unfortunately, without a source provided, we have been unable to prove that this is the case.

We have a few more names remaining on our 1930-born list, so we will conclude this series next week with more Olympic missing links. We hope that you will join us!

1930 Olympic Missing Links

It is the start of a new year and, for us here at Oldest Olympians, time to examine the subject of 1930 missing links, which looks at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. These cases in particular examine those who were born in 1930 and who would otherwise be the newest possibilities for our list of oldest living Olympians. We have a significant number of these individuals this year, and thus we will be splitting this topic across several blog entries over the next few weeks.

(Marcel Troupel, pictured at a 2014 ceremony at the Société des Régates d’Antibes)

Marcel Troupel – Member of France’s sailing delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics

Marcel Troupel, born May 6, 1930, represented France in the Tempest class sailing tournament at the 1972 Munich Games, where he and his partner Yves Devillers, 18 years his junior, placed ninth in a field of 21 teams, having won the first race, but falling further behind as the competition progressed. While sometimes knowledge about Olympic sailors can be obscure, Troupel distinguished himself as a World Champion by winning the 505 class in 1968 alongside the non-Olympian Philippe Lanaverre. He was honored for this feat (among others) in 2014, so we know that he was still alive at this point, but the only trace we have been able to locate since then is a handful of obituaries for a man with the same name from October 2019. We suspect that this is the Olympian, given the uncommonness of his name, but without an age, let alone mention of his sailing career, we are unable to confirm this fact.

Hugo Vonlanthen – Member of Switzerland’s field hockey squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Hugo Vonlanthen, born June 12, 1930, represented Switzerland in the field hockey tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where the nation lost its round one match against Austria, but defeated France in the consolation round to place ninth overall. Like many field hockey players, this is the extent of what we know about him, although we did locate an obituary for someone with his uncommon name who died April 28, 2009. While the age of this individual was one year off, an archival website notes that person who died on that date was born in 1930. Unfortunately, neither source gives a full date of birth or any indication that he was the field hockey player, and thus he remains for now a missing link.

William Fajardo – Member of Mexico’s fencing delegation to the 1960 and 1968 Summer Olympics

William Fajardo, born October 15, 1930, was a member of two Mexican Olympic fencing delegations. In 1960 in Rome he took part in the individual foil and sabre, but was eliminated in the first round of both competitions. In 1968 in Mexico City, he had the same result in the individual and team sabre tournaments. He fared much better, however, at the Central American and Caribbean Games: in 1954 he took silver in the team foil and bronze in the team sabre, while in 1959 he earned bronze in both of those events, adding a fourth bronze in the team foil in 1962. He was also sixth at the 1959 Pan American Games in individual foil. Despite these accomplishments, the only hint to his later life that we were able to uncover was the record of a William Ruy Fajardo Perez who died June 14, 2002, at the age of 71 (the correct age for the fencer) in Cuauhtémoc. Without further confirmation, however, we cannot be sure that this is a record for the Olympian.

Ken Box – Member of Great Britain’s track and field delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Ken Box, born December 1, 1930, represented Great Britain in two track events at the 1956 Melbourne Games. He was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 100 metres sprint, while in the 4×100 metres relay he came in fifth with the British team. He was also entered into the long jump, but did not start the competition. Internationally, his best result came at the 1954 European Championships, where he brought home a silver medal from the 4×100 metres relay. He also represented England at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, being eliminated in the heats of the 100 metres and just missing the podium in fourth in the 4×110 yards relay. He attempted to qualify for the 1960 Rome Olympics in the long jump, but did not succeed and thus retired. He later moved to Australia and we located an obituary for a Kenneth James Box (his full name) who died in Gympie, Queensland in July 1982. Unfortunately, the obituary does not give any details, not even an age, that would suggest that this was the athlete, while a 2012 article on him was written as if he were alive, although it did not explicitly say so. Thus, we are left with another Olympic mystery.

We will continue this series next week with more Olympians who reside currently on our list of missing links. We hope that you will join us!

Last Verified Living in 2009

With another new year upon us, we here at Oldest Olympians felt that it was time to review those Olympians whose last confirmation of being alive is the furthest away; in this case, three individuals who were last verified living in 2009, or over 10 years ago. Should no updated confirmation be forthcoming, we would have to remove them from our main table, and thus we decided it was best to dedicate another blog entry to them in the hopes of uncovering whether or not they are still with us.

(Gustavo Olguín pictured at the Sociedad Mexicana de Autores de las Artes Plástica)

Gustavo Olguín – Member of the Mexican water polo squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

We have actually covered Gustavo Olguín, born April 14, 1925, in detail here on Oldest Olympians before, because we believe him to be the oldest living Mexican Olympian. Gustavo and two of his brothers represented their country in water polo at the 1952 Helsinki Games, but Mexico had the bad lack of being drawn against the upcoming Olympic champions from Hungary in the qualifying round and were thus eliminated. The holder of a visual arts degree from UCLA, Gustavo undertook a career in the arts, specializing in painting and engraving, and had his works exhibited around the world. He also had a reputation as a plant collector. Searching the internet suggests that he is still alive, but the last definite confirmation that we had comes from 2009. Unfortunately, without a later update, we will have to remove him from our lists and identify a new oldest living Mexican Olympian. We did find a website with contact information for him, but it was over 10 years old and thus we were unable to get a response.

(Brian Pickworth pictured on the right at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games)

Brian Pickworth – New Zealand’s lone fencer at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Brian Pickworth, born August 10, 1929, represented New Zealand in all three fencing disciplines at the 1960 Rome Games, being eliminated in the first round of the foil and sabre competitions and the second round of the épée tournament. He had more luck at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, winning bronze in the team sabre, and also competed at the 1958, 1966, and 1970 editions of that tournament. Perhaps the most interesting fact, however, is that he accomplished all of this after losing his left arm above the elbow to a shooting accident at the age of 21, which derailed his rugby career. We located some evidence that he was still alive in 2009, and his name is not found in the New Zealand Death Index, so we presume that he is still alive, but have been unable to find any confirmation.

Norman Shutt – Representative for Great Britain in biathlon and cross-country skiing at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics

Norman Shutt, born November 9, 1929, represented Great Britain in both biathlon and cross-country skiing at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games. In the former sport, he was 30th in the 20 km competition, while in the latter he was 52nd in the 15 km. By career, he was a police officer. His family posted a tribute to his 80th birthday back in 2009, but we have been unable to confirm whether or not he reached his 90th birthday a decade later.

Unfortunately, our blog entry on the same topic last year did not raise any new leads, and we had to remove South African track athlete Edna Maskell, Israeli diver Yoav Ra’anan, and Luxembourg kayaker Léon Roth from our lists. We hope for better luck with our latest featured Olympians!

Oldest Olympians End of Year Fast Facts

With the end of 2019 approaching, we wanted to share some fast facts about the oldest Olympians in the world, partially to continue our commitment to transparency in our research but mostly just for fun and to share some statistics – after all, this is the Olympstats blog!

(The oldest living Olympian, John Lysak, born August 16, 1914, pictured in a July 27, 2008 edition of The Mercury News)

As of today, our full list contains the names of 2647 participants, non-starters, demonstration athletes, and art competitors born between 1910 and 1929 that could be living, 595 of whom we believe to be living for certain. Both of those numbers are up from 2596 and 526 around roughly the same time last year.

We also have 460 Olympians (down from 558 last year) who competed in the 1928, 1932, or 1936 Games, Winter and Summer, who have no date of birth but could be still living. It is worth reminding everyone that the vast majority of athletes that could be living are likely deceased.

We believe that we will have six living Olympic centenarians by the end of the year, up from three at the end of last year, as we do not know of any Olympic centenarians who died in 2019. We also know of seven survivors from the oldest editions of the Olympics with living participants, the 1936 Berlin Games, and no known survivors of this edition died this year.

We’ll try to send out a small update like this at the end of every year and, if you have any suggestions of statistics or information that you would like to see added, please send us a message and we’ll be happy to include it in the next round! Happy New Year to all!

Leo Sylvestre, Part II

As we continue to wrap up loose ends and draw 2019 to a close, we wanted to follow up on a post that we made back in April regarding Canadian speed skater Leo Sylvestre, born December 14, 1912. Sylvestre represented his country at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics where, despite being entered in four events, he only competed in one, the 500 metres, and was eliminated in round one. We had a possible lead on his date of death being in October 1952, but further research determined that this was just a coincidence, as the individual who died in 1952 was too young, while another report showed that the Olympian was still alive in 1962.

(December 28, 1962 report from The Gazette)

Such coincidences are rare, but they do happen. While going through our list of 1930-born Olympians, we looked into the case of British fencer Theresa Offredy, born May 4, 1930, who was part of the British women’s foil team at the 1964 Tokyo Games. We located the record of a Theresa Offredy born May 4, 1929, whose death was recorded in the England and Wales Death Index during the first quarter of 1991. Since it is not uncommon for years of birth to be off by a year (or more), and given the rarity of the name, we assumed that this was the Olympian.

It turned out, however, just to be a substantial coincidence. The woman born in 1929 was Barbara Theresa Offredy, while the Olympian born in 1930 is Theresa Mary Offredy. Research by Olympic historian Ian Morrison demonstrated that Theresa Mary was still alive in at least 2010, confirming that she was not the individual who died c. 1991.

With the knowledge that such coincidences can occur, we turn back to Leo Sylvestre, whose name is much more common than Offredy’s. Thanks to a contribution from Marc Durand, we learned that Sylvestre was deceased in 1981 when his widow received a trophy on his behalf. This narrows his date of death to a period between 1962 and 1981. The best match we could find in the Quebec Death Index was for a Leo Sylvestre born December 13, 1911 who died December 11, 1972.

This individual was born one year and one day off the data that we have for the Olympian, so the most likely answer is that this is the Olympian and that either our data or the index’s data is slightly off. Given what we just posted about coincidences, however, we cannot conclude definitively that this was the Olympian, because we were unable to locate an obituary. Most likely, however, Sylvestre’s date of death being December 11, 1972 is the solution to the mystery.

End of the Year Olympic Missing Links

As the year wraps up, we want to dedicate some blog space to the last few Olympic missing links that we came up with during the year: cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.

Kim Gyu-Hwan – Member of the South Korean football team at the 1948 London Olympics

Kim Gyu-Hwan, born July 16, 1921, also known as Kim Kyu-hwan, got his start in football at Kwangseong High School and went on to play for Pyongyang FC before Korea split into North and South. By the time of the 1948 London Olympics, however, the national Olympic committee was only representing the South and Kim was among those selected to take part in the football tournament at the Games. There, the country defeated Mexico in round one, before losing to upcoming gold medalists Sweden in the quarterfinals; Kim appeared in both matches. He later went on to have some prominence in the coaching and administration of the sport, serving as assistant manager to the national squad in the early 1960s and later working with the team known now as Busan IPark. Both the English and Korean Wikipedias list Kim as dying on October 5, 2007, but we have been unable to locate any source to verify this claim.

Josef Matěásko – Member of the Czechoslovakian military ski patrol team at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics

All we know for certain about Josef Matěásko was that he was a member of the Czechoslovakian military ski patrol team that finished eighth at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. Since this was a demonstration event that year, like Eisstockschießen, data for many of the competitors, especially those who did not take part in official Olympic events is lacking, and we have been unable to find much else on Matěásko, despite it being a relatively uncommon name. We did locate a record for a Czech Josef Matěásko born in 1912 who died in 1991, which would be about the right age for someone to have competed at the 1936 Games. Without further verification, however, we can only speculate.

Just a brief post for today as we wrap up the year. Things get busy in December, particularly as we prepare our lists of 1930-born Olympians, and we already have a handful of Olympic mysteries from that cohort. We hope that you will join us in the future as we share our research and try to solve some of these mysteries!

1956 Pakistan Olympic Field Hockey Team

Today Oldest Olympians is taking a look into the Pakistani field hockey team that won the silver medal at the 1956 Melbourne Games, because this case contains elements of the different types of mysteries that we face while building our tables. While most of the players are either known to be deceased, or are too young to be among the Oldest Olympians, a few are right at home on the (digital) pages of this blog.

Our original objective with this post was simply to cover a silver medal mystery that we had missed previously. Habibur Rehman, born August 15, 1925, is the only medalist on the team over 90 about whom we are uncertain as to whether or not he is still alive. In addition to his silver from 1956, he was also with the squads that finished fourth at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and won a gold medal at the 1958 Asian Games. Despite these accomplishments, we have been unable to ascertain if Rehman, who would be 94, is alive or deceased.

(Aziz Malik)

We then noticed that one of the alternates on the team, Aziz Malik, was actually an Olympian in his own right. Although he did not receive a medal in 1956, because he did not actually play in any of the matches, he was a starter for Pakistan at the last two editions, in 1948 in London and 1952 in Helsinki, both times of which his country finished just off the podium in fourth. His date of birth is usually listed as April 16, 1916, although some sources have the year as 1918 instead. Regardless, we could not find any confirmation of his living status, so he is also an Olympic mystery, just not officially a medal one.

Then there was the case of another alternate, Zafar Hayat, who was a non-playing reserve not only in 1956, but also in 1960 in Rome, when Pakistan finally earned its first field hockey gold medal. It was not until 1964 in Tokyo, when Pakistan was relegated back to silver, that Hayat earned an Olympic medal officially. Two years earlier, however, he had taken gold with the national team at the 1962 Asian Games. Complicating Hayat’s case is his uncertain year of birth: while some sources list him as being born on March 31, 1927, others have him as being born in 1937. Despite the decade-long gap, neither date would be outside of the realm of possibility for his career for a field hockey player of this era, and thus we cannot be certain if he even qualifies as among the Oldest Olympians yet. Regardless, we have no information on whether or not he is still alive.

Finally, in terms of alternates, there were two other reserves on the 1956 squad about whom we know nothing: Muhammad Amin and Muhammad Nasib. We know of no other results from them in any international tournaments, and do not have even a year of birth for either; given how little attention such reserves receive, we cannot even be certain that their names are correct. Our list of “possibly living” oldest Olympians only takes into consideration Olympians without a date of birth when they competed prior to World War II, because otherwise we cannot be certain that they would have even reached the age of 90 yet. The reality is, however, that many postwar alternates would now be well over 90 if still alive, especially in a sport such a field hockey. Amin and Nasib, therefore, add to the mystery surrounding the 1956 Pakistani Olympic field hockey squad.

Thus this case study highlights the many difficulties and caveats that plague our research here at Oldest Olympians. Still, it is work that we enjoy and such mysteries keep us on our toes, so we always enjoy sharing some of what goes on behind the scenes in order to add additional transparency and, we hope, credibility to our ultimate results.

Amit Singh Bakshi

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking at a gold medal mystery of a different kind. The case of Indian field hockey player Amit Singh Bakshi is one where the mystery does not come from whether or not he is alive, as we have evidence that he was still living in 2012 and have no reason to believe that he has since died. Instead, our confusion comes from not being certain exactly how old he is.

(Photograph of the 1956 Indian Olympic hockey team from bharatiyahockey.org)

A member of New Delhi’s Services Sport Control Board, Bakshi was originally a backup player on the Indian field hockey squad that was chosen for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. After teammate Gursewak Singh was declared medically unfit, however, Bakshi was moved up to a starting player. He only appeared in one of India’s five games on their way to earning their sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal, however, a 16-0 blowout of the United States in the group stage. By career, he was a commercial airline pilot.

The mystery comes from conflicting sources regarding his age. The 1956 Olympic report gives a year of 1936, while the 2012 article confirming that he was alive lists him as 87 years old, making him born in either 1924 or 1925 and suggesting that the Olympic report was not simply a typo for 1926. Due to the fact that he was not a prominent international player, no other sources provide more depth or additional clarification. He may, therefore, be one of the oldest Indian Olympians, third only to water polo player Gora Seal and triple field hockey champion Balbir Singh Sr. On the other hand, he may not even be in his mid-80s. With so much uncertainty about Indian Olympians of this era, it may be difficult to ascertain exactly when he was born, but we felt it worth noting him as an important caveat to our lists.

Wally Hayward

Some time back, when noting the death of Nigerian track athlete Karim Olowu, we here at Oldest Olympians were discussing the longest-lived African Olympians. Based on some research that we have done in the interim, we believe that the distinction of longest-lived Olympian goes to South African marathoner Wally Hayward.

Hayward, born July 10, 1908, was already an established runner in his early 20s. In 1938, he earned his most notable international prize by taking bronze in the six-mile race at that year’s British Empire Games. It was after World War II, however, that he reached the pinnacle of his career. In 1952, he was selected to represent South Africa in the marathon at the Helsinki Olympics, where he finished 10th out of 66 starters. The following year, he won his country’s 90-kilometer Comrades Marathon for the fourth of five times and set world records at 50 and 100 miles, as well as the 24-hours race. He continued racing into his 80s, not stopping for good until 1989. A marathon in South Africa was named in his honor.

By career Hayward was an engineer and he served in that capacity during World War II, winning the British Empire Medal for bravery during the conflict. He died on April 27, 2006, at the age of 97 years, 291 days, making him the longest-lived African Olympian that we know about. For the sake of comparison, the current oldest living African Olympian is Mohamed Selim Zaki, born July 16, 1924, who recently turned 95. There is nothing mysterious about Hayward, but we did want to make a brief post about him here at Oldest Olympians, not only to tie up a loose end from an earlier post, but, as always, to celebrate the achievements of a distinguished sportsman and his contributions to the Olympic movement.

Eisstockschießen (Ice Stock Sport)

Eisstockschießen in action

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a quick peek at a sport that, at least in the English-speaking world, is little known, but has twice appeared at the Games as a demonstration event: Eisstockschießen, translated into English as ice stock sport. There are two main variants of the game, but the procedure is similar to curling in both instances: sliding a rock (in this case, known as an ice stock) across the ice towards a specific goal. In target shooting, the objective is to get as close to the target as possible. In distance shooting, the objective is to throw the ice stock as far as possible. It was played as a demonstration sport at both the 1936 and 1964 Winter Olympics.

As you might imagine, our interest lies primarily in the former tournament. Given the obscurity of the sport, at least in English-speaking countries, there is not a lot of information on most of the competitors, not even dates of birth. This means that the majority of the participants are listed on our list of “possibly living alternates and demonstration event competitors”. While we have been able to eliminate a handful of them as being still living, either based on precise information that we have found or dates of previous competition that are too early for them to still be alive, the possibility that some of these players are still with us is not outside the realm of possibility. In fact, there are well over 100 of them on our list, from three different countries: Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

In terms of why we are blogging about this, there is always the importance of  broadening the search for obscure information so that we may be able to find somehow who can help cross off a few names. There are, for example, some Olympic missing links. The website for Eisstock-Club Bad Reichenhall, for example, lists a Kaspar Knoll as being born on June 11, 1920 and dying on May 5, 2007. A Kaspar Knoll also participated in the 1936 Games for the same club, and while this might seem a bit young for an Olympian, the age range for this sport is quite large, just as it is in curling. On the other end of the age scale, the Olympian Matthäus Maucher might be this man, who died in 1957, both of whom have connections to Oberstdorf. We cannot even be certain of the spelling of names; a Helmut Müller-Leuthert supposedly participated in 1936 with Gießener Eisverein. Is he actually Helmut Müller-Leutert, an artist who was born and died in Giessen and lived from September 15, 1892 to December 5, 1973, who otherwise has no known connection to the sport?

More importantly, however, we wanted to shed some light on this obscure piece of Olympic history to remind our readers that there is nothing that we take for granted. It might seem unnecessary to keep track of demonstration sport competitors who are almost certainly deceased, but we find it important to perform our due diligence in this regard and stand behind the accuracy of our data. An individual’s contribution to the Olympic movement, no matter how small, is always worth noting, particularly if they are a living link to an almost forgotten past.